Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. (Numbers 21:4)
Discouragement is a nagging, strength-sapping, faith-challenging tool of our spiritual enemy.
Any discouraged person realizes its toxic toll. I’m not talking about mere disappointment – I’m referring to the lethal combination of deep seeded despair, hopelessness, and loss of trust.
The Israelites became discouraged after years of aimless wandering in a hot, barren, desert. No food or water. Living in tents. Sand creeping into places it was never intended to be. No sight of the Promised Land. And in that discouraged, weakened state, they got mad at God. They asked “Why?” They became so angry they even complained about God’s daily provision of manna.
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5)
Similarly, discouragement can overwhelm us with wave after wave of dire circumstances, bad news, and other negative life events. Before one bad experience ends, another starts. Your doctor gives you bad news. Layoffs happen at work. A close friend betrays your trust and falsely accuses you. You can’t remember specifically when that knot in your stomach arrived, but you know it’s there.
Just like the Israelites, it’s easy to question everything. God, why is this happening? How am I going to support myself if I lose my job? Why is this person falsely accusing me? Discouragement builds with each unanswered question. It gnaws at my belief that God is in control, hears my prayers, and has the answers. It erodes my faith in friendship and my willingness to ever trust again.
When discouragement assails me, my natural response is to become withdrawn and internalize the pain and confusion. But, that is exactly what my spiritual adversary wants. Doubt. Loss of faith. Isolation. Anger.
God is Sovereignly in Control
When we get discouraged, we tend to overlook God’s supreme sovereignty and man’s inherent sinfulness. First, nothing surprises God – not even futile desert wanderings. Though the desert trek wasn’t pleasant for the Israelites, God was right there beside them, actively involved, implementing His sovereign plan. Secondly, with the exercise of freewill, humans occasionally betray and hurt each other. Understanding these two premises may help offset the frustration, anger, and pain that discouragement encourages.
If you’re discouraged today, work to overcome its harmful mindset. Praise God in spite of your circumstances. Rejoice in His infinite goodness, love, and mercy. Trust His sovereignty. Ask Him to restore to you the joy of His salvation. Keep praising Him until His joy shines through.
Praise, faith and joy are spiritual weapons that defeat discouragement. Use them today.